Phil Hellmuth Makes Antonio Esfandiari “Disappear” in $400,000 High Stakes Duel

In what is rapidly becoming the format du jour for poker players to demonstrate their prowess, 15-time World Series of Poker champion Phil Hellmuth completed his domination of fellow pro Antonio Esfandiari. Making “The Magician” “disappear,” Hellmuth finished off by winning three consecutive matches and, in the final match, $400,000.

PokerGO Program What Poker World Needs

The format of the new PokerGO show High Stakes Duel served as the backdrop for the Hellmuth/Esfandiari matchup. The basic premise is that both players put up $50,000 each (to start with) and play until one or the other has the other’s stack. They then can move on to the next match, with the buy-in doubled ($100,000). If a player wants to quit, then another player can step into the match and continue at the stakes as they are currently running.

Hellmuth dominated the first two matchups between the duo (and $300,000), meaning that he was basically playing the third match with Esfandiari’s money. That put a great deal of pressure on “The Magician,” but Hellmuth was feeling some heat about his play, too. Thus, both players had a great deal to prove when they stepped to the felt for Wednesday’s broadcast.

The PokerGO cameras caught all the action and, in many ways, it seemed that Hellmuth was never challenged. It seemed as if Hellmuth would use that “white magic” he repeatedly speaks about to see through Esfandiari’s eyes, picking off bluffs from the first champion of the “Big One for One Drop.” When he wasn’t soul-reading Esfandiari, he had the cards to do the job, bettering Esfandiari’s holdings at every turn.

The final hand saw Hellmuth’s A-10 up against an all-in Esfandiari’s A-3. While it appeared the board was on the way to a chop for the duo, Hellmuth’s fortunes would hold true and he would take the final hand when his ten played. After the conclusion of the match, Hellmuth let Esfandiari off the hook and resigned from the battle, taking his $400,000 won from Event #3 and going home, while Esfandiari got out to review just what went wrong.

Who Is Up Next?

There are four more episodes of High Stakes Duel left, but the players aren’t known yet. This would have been a great forum for the Negreanu/Polk battle and the time is working out roughly around the start of their much anticipated tete a tete battle on November 1. But, with that one going on virtually, it might not lend itself well to the PokerGO cameras.

So, who else is a possibility?

There are a few heads-up masters that could be choices for this series. Olivier Busquet, who was one of the voices that raged against Hellmuth’s play, could step in for a battle. Another player such as Chris Moorman is a possibility but, depending on his current location, he might not be able to get in the U. S. to play. Chance Kornuth and Phil Galfond are also good choices, but their ongoing “Galfond Challenge” might keep them otherwise occupied.

Credit to PokerGO for getting on some original programming, especially when there is very little tournament poker being conducted, and kudos to Hellmuth and Esfandiari for putting on such a good show (Esfandiari might not think it was so fun, however). It will be interesting to see who the next two combatants are for High Stakes Duel and what the future of the program will be (Hellmuth has already said he’d be up to do the premiere of a potential Season 2).

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